Nigerian researchers and their partners from Tunisia and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have developed a new wheat variety suitable for cultivation in Nigeria.
Unveiling the new wheat variety called Atila Gan Atila recently in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said 100,000 hectares of the crop has been cultivated across states in the north. He added that 350,000 tonnes of the new wheat variety, which yields between 3.5 and 4 tonnes per hectare, are expected during this harvest season.
This initiative, he disclosed, was capable of saving $4.6 billion for the country as a result of import substitution. The minister revealed that for nearly 40 years, Nigeria had tried to produce wheat of accepted quality without success, but that hurdle had now been crossed.
"Agriculture in Nigeria is no longer a rainy season event. States must be encouraged to build dams and canals, and provide good quality seeds and seedlings. We should do more to increase our production," the minister noted. He disclosed that Nigeria was almost running out of maize due to export to North Africa and Central Africa and urged Nigerians to step up food production so as to have enough for domestic use and excess for export to earn 'agro-dollar' not 'petro-dollar'.
Speaking on agricultural mechanization in the country, Ogbeh said that the government would soon launch the 2nd phase of mechanization in Ilorin, Kwara State, noting that: "We need a minimum of one million tractors in five years, now we have about 30,000 tractors."
He said Agriculture Ministry was collaborating with Water Resources Ministry and others to get young people into agriculture, even as it is lobbying banks to reduce interest rates on agriculture loans.